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If you're refused reasonable adjustments

This advice applies to Wales

If you’re disabled and you didn’t get the reasonable adjustments you asked for, you might be able to take action using the Equality Act. For example, you might be able to get the changes you need or get compensation.

The Equality Act is the law that says when people and organisations have to make changes so disabled people aren’t disadvantaged. It calls this ‘the duty to make reasonable adjustments’. 

To see if you can take action, you should check if the person you asked has a duty to make reasonable adjustments for you. If they do, you might have experienced a type of discrimination called ‘failure to make reasonable adjustments’.

If you haven’t asked for reasonable adjustments yet

It’s worth asking as soon as possible. You don't need to check if an org has a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments.

When asking for changes, you should:

  • explain how your disability affects you

  • explain what’s making things difficult for you and why

If you need changes at work, you can check how to ask an employer for adjustments.

If you need changes in housing, you can check how to ask for housing adjustments.

To work out if you can take action about discrimination, you need to:

  1. Check if you’re disabled under the Equality Act

  2. Check if the person or organisation has to make reasonable adjustments

  3. Check what type of reasonable adjustments you should get

  4. Check if you’re disadvantaged without the adjustments

If all 4 steps apply and you don’t get reasonable adjustments, this is discrimination.

1. Check if you’re disabled under the Equality Act

If you’re disabled under the Equality Act, people and organisations have to make reasonable adjustments to help you do and access things more easily.

The Equality Act’s definition of disability is quite wide so you might be disabled under the Equality Act even if you don’t see yourself as disabled - for example if you have ADHD or a long-term illness. 

You can check the Equality Act 2010’s definition of disability.

2. Check if the person or organisation has to make adjustments

The Equality Act says you can ask for reasonable adjustments in the following areas:

  • work - for example your employer or employment agency

  • education - for example your school, college or university

  • businesses or service provision - like a shop or a train company

  • health or care provision - like a hospital or care home

  • housing - like a landlord or estate agent

  • public service provision - for example the police or your local council

  • clubs and associations - like a sports club

Organisations should usually think about the needs of disabled people and make their buildings and services accessible before you have to ask. This is called the ‘anticipatory duty’ to make reasonable adjustments. 

The anticipatory duty doesn’t apply in work and housing. Employers have to make changes once they know you’re disabled. Landlords have to make changes after you ask for adjustments.

If you need your landlord to make adjustments

The rules around reasonable adjustments are slightly different if you live with your landlord or one of their relatives - or if your landlord used to live with you.

If you’re in this situation, check if you can get reasonable adjustments from your landlord.

3. Check what type of reasonable adjustments you should get

There are 3 types of reasonable adjustments organisations have to make to help you access things more easily.

People and organisations should:

  • change a rule or way of doing things - for example the hours you have to work, an application process or how they contact you 

  • change a physical feature of a building - for example steps, toilets or lighting

  • give you equipment or help - for example if you need induction loops for your hearing aid, a screen reader or support to fill in a form

What makes a change ‘reasonable’ depends on your specific situation - for example, how much the change will help you and the size of the organisation responsible for the change.

Adjustments to a rule or way of doing things

People and organisations have to make reasonable changes to a rule or way of doing things if it will help you do or access things more easily. 

These changes could include:

  • removing targets at work or making them more flexible

  • having more contact options - for example, phone as well as email

  • changing terms in a formal contract or policy

  • changing a process - like a payment or application process

Example

Fei’s university only allows students to park in specific student car parks. Fei has a mobility impairment which means she needs to park close to where her classes are. This isn’t always possible as the student car parks are only on one side of the campus. 

Fei’s university have a duty to change their parking policy to make things easier for Fei. For example, the university could change their parking policy to allow Fei to park in any of the campus car parks.

Adjustments to a physical feature of a building

Organisations usually have to make reasonable changes to a physical feature of a building if it will help you do or access things more easily. The rules are different for schools and housing.

For example, organisations should make reasonable changes to:

  • steps and stairs - for example installing ramps or stairway lifts

  • doors - for example making doorways wider or installing automatic doors

  • toilets - for example adding accessible toilets

  • lighting and ventilation

If you need your landlord or housing organisation to make changes

People like landlords, letting agents and property managers don’t have to change the physical features of a building if you ask them - but you can ask them to change removable items like furniture and fixtures. 

For example, they should: 

  • replace or put up signs or notices

  • change taps or door handles - or install grab rails

  • change the colour of a wall, door or any other surface

  • change your doorbell or door entry system

If an organisation can't make physical changes to your accommodation, you can also check other ways to get home adaptations on Scope’s website.

If you need a school to make changes

Schools don’t have to change the physical features of a building if you ask them.

Instead, schools have to create general plans to improve the accessibility of their buildings. They have to regularly review and carry out these plans. You can ask the school to show you their plan and tell you how they’re delivering it.

If you’re finding it difficult to access or use a school building, the school still has to consider making changes for you - even if they can’t change a physical feature of a building. 

For example, if a school can’t install a lift for your child who uses a wheelchair, they should make sure all your child’s classes are on the ground floor.

If you need extra equipment or help

People and organisations usually have to give you extra equipment or help if it will make it easier for you to do or access things. 

Examples of aids and services include:

  • a portable induction loop for people with hearing aids

  • British Sign Language interpreters

  • giving information in alternative formats, such as Braille or audio CD’s

  • extra help from staff - for example, taking more time to explain something or having face-to-face services for people who can’t use the internet or phone

Example

Keiran wants to apply for Council Tax Reduction but his local council says he has to apply online. Keiran finds this difficult because he has a learning disability. He needs support to fill in the form. 

The local council should have a service that can give Keiran extra help to apply. If they don’t make this reasonable adjustment, it might be unlawful discrimination.

Check if the adjustments you asked for are reasonable

The Equality Act says people and organisations only have to make ‘reasonable’ changes to help you do and access things easier. 

For example, it might not be reasonable for a small organisation to make an expensive change that will only help you a little bit. 

To work out if a change is reasonable, you should think about:

  • how much the change will help you - the more it will help, the more likely it is to be reasonable

  •  the time and cost involved in making the change

  •  the size and resources of the organisation

  • if the change you need would significantly change how a service or business is run

  • if there are other ways to help that might be easier or cheaper

If an organisation says a change you asked for isn't reasonable, they should work with you to find other adjustments that help you.

4. Check if you’re disadvantaged without the adjustments 

People and organisations have to make reasonable adjustments if it would be harder for you to do or access things without them. The Equality Act calls this being ‘substantially disadvantaged’. 

You might be substantially disadvantaged even if you can still access a service. You just have to show that not getting the reasonable adjustments has a negative effect on you. 

For example, you might be substantially disadvantaged if something:

  • makes work tasks longer, harder or more stressful

  • makes it harder for you to use a building

  • causes you pain, discomfort or distress

  • stops you being able to do something independently 

  • limits how you can communicate or move around

Challenging a decision about reasonable adjustments

If you think the person or organisation had a duty to make the changes you asked for, you might have experienced discrimination.

It's usually much easier to try and solve the problem directly with the person or organisation before taking any legal action. 

It’s worth asking them to reconsider your request for reasonable adjustments. You can give them extra information to show why you’re entitled to reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act. You can also challenge any unfair reasons they gave for not making the changes. 

For example, you could:

  • explain how you’re disabled under the Equality Act 

  • identify what’s causing the problem - for example, a rule, a building feature or a lack of equipment

  • explain how the problem is still making things difficult for you 

  • explain why you think the change you need is reasonable

  • say they have a legal duty to make adjustments for you

If you still can’t get the changes you need 

There are other actions you could take using the Equality Act - for example you could raise a formal complaint or get help from an ombudsman. If this doesn’t work, you could raise a legal claim. You can check what to do about discrimination.

There are time limits for taking legal action about discrimination. If you need to go to court, it’s important to act quickly - the time limits can be as little as 3 months from the date you experienced discrimination. Check what the time limits are.

If you don’t think you’ve experienced discrimination

It's still worth contacting the person or organisation again. Even if they don't have a legal duty to make the adjustments you asked for, there might be other changes they could make..

If they still refuse, it might be worth getting advice and support from an organisation that helps people with your disability - for example, Scope, Mind or RNID.

You could also try making a complaint. For example, you could:

If you need more help 

If you’re not sure if someone has a legal duty to make changes for you, you should get advice as soon as possible. There are time limits for taking legal action about discrimination so you should act quickly.

Talk to an adviser to get help working out if you’re entitled to the changes you asked for.

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